We're sure you've heard this advice before, but there are quite a few things to consider before setting up an e-shop. Platforms like WordPress and Shopify make it very easy to open an online store - but that can lead people to rush into it. It's a good idea to consider the following points so that you know what you are getting yourself into.

Firstly, it takes a lot longer than you think to get the sales rolling in. Even if you manage to generate traffic, you may struggle to turn that traffic into sales. You need to find the people who are spending money, rather than those just browsing. This generally takes a lot of tweaking and experimentation. You'll need to try different types of content on different social media platforms, and see what attracts the right visitors. Even the time of day that you post content will affect the type of visitors you will attract. Eventually, you should be able to work out how to get the right type of customer to your site - it will just take a bit of time.

Secondly, you need to know what your USP (unique selling point) is. You are unlikely to be able to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon on price. That means you need to offer something that they can't. Your USP could be based on customisation, service, or value-add. It's really a question of offering your customers something they aren't going to get from large corporate companies.

Next is data security. E-shops must store customer data in order to do business. But, in this day and age, storing customer data comes with certain obligations. In 2017 we have seen several high-profile data breaches that resulted in customer data being compromised, which more often than not end up damaging a brand's reputation. New regulations like the European Union's GDPR mean businesses are held responsible for protecting customer data. So, before you start out, make sure you familiarise yourself with your data security responsibilities and have a plan for data security. An important point here is considering whether you'll be selling only to domestic customers or to consumers living abroad too, since cross-border data transfers can be governed by different data security regulations than the data of your domestic customers. Do your research well and make sure you comply with the law, to avoid fines and delays.

Next, you will need content. Marketing in the digital age requires content - and lots of it. You need to be able to attract the attention of people on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And that requires a lot of content. Your content can take the form of YouTube videos, blog posts, infographics or podcasts. The question you need to ask yourself is, do you have the time to create it? And do you have the staying power to keep creating it day in and day out for the next few years? There are about 12 million e-commerce stores in the world, so you need a way to bring people to yours. If you don't have the time to keep creating content, you need to be able to pay others to create content for you. It's very easy to hire freelancers to do your writing online, you just need to make sure you have the budget for it.


Graphics Source: Pexels.com

Once you know what you are getting yourself into, it's fairly easy to set up an online store. You need a domain, a brand, a website and software to facilitate payments and shipping.

Setting up the website is the easy part. The difficult parts listed above also need to be taken care of. So, before you invest in a website or expensive software, build a plan for content,

security and a plan to differentiate your business. And make sure you have the budget to get to a point when your sales will cover your overheads.